19. 05. 2015
Marco Zanuso becomes part of the Cassina I Maestri Collection The origins of modern Italian design under the Cassina brand
The founding fathers of Italian industrial design meet again
Three works that have shaped the history of Italian design have joined the Cassina catalogue: the Antropus, Lady and Woodline armchairs designed by Marco Zanuso between 1949 and 1964.
As a result the anthology of Cassina’s great architects now has new icons in its production and cultural programme of furniture which are united with the models by the architect Franco Albini and the Superleggera chair by Gio Ponti.
Marco Zanuso’s synthetic vision of design
Architect, designer and university lecturer, Marco Zanuso (1916-2001) was one of the leading interpreters of the Modern Movement. Trained at the Polytechnic University of Milan and, in the immediate post-war years, co-editor of the Domus magazine with Ernesto N. Rogers, he was awarded the Medaglia d'oro and the Gran Premio at the Milan Triennale on a number of occasions (VIII, IX, X, XI and XIII editions), and won five Compassi d’Oro between 1956 and 1985.
Zanuso was one of the first designers in Italy to take an interest in the problems of product industrialisation, going beyond aesthetic issues to incorporate technological, industrial, distribution and communication variables.
According to Zanuso, the form of an object destined for serial reproduction is an amalgam of opportunities, experimentation and innovation in the concrete process that connects creativity, production and the social and cultural context.
“Through my projects I want to give form to what I call complexity”, Marco Zanuso.
Dialogue between designer and company to make contemporary design accessible
This global and relational approach to design involves the designer in the coordination of various skills and people in the production process, something that Zanuso always carried out through a lively and practical dialogue with the company.
This ranged from the application of new materials and technologies - primarily the experience with Arflex, founded in the early 1950s as a laboratory for experimenting with the use of foam rubber together with nastrocord in the domestic setting - to the miniaturisation of telephone and television components with Brionvega.
With this in mind, the fact that Marco Zanuso was at the presentation of Cassina’s LC Collection in Milan on the 30th of September 1965 in Milan seems now more pertinent than ever. In the presentation text that accompanied these new editions by Le Corbusier, Pierre Jeanneret and Charlotte Perriand, Rogers wrote:
"The quality of these works lies in the fact that they have condensed into their forms an interpretation of time that goes beyond narrative; the possibility of experiencing them today is a chance to understand that synthetic perfection to which architecture should always aspire”.
We find this same character in many of Zanuso’s objects which, aside from the obvious technological transformations achieved, maintain intact the intrinsic value of progressive research geared towards attaining an essential form.
The Cassina I Maestri Collection: design culture in continuous evolution
The Cassina I Maestri Collection was the first collection of re-editions of classic designs by the great design masters of the 20th century. These classics would have been forgotten were it not for the intuitive vision of scholar Filippo Alison, curator of the collection between 1972 and 2014, who recently passed away. And so today, 50 years after the LC Collection by Le Corbusier, Jeanneret and Perriand was first produced, the process continues.
Each piece in the Marco Zanuso Collection is authenticated with a progressive production number which corresponds to its identity card, the signature of the designer and the Cassina I Maestri logo.
The Lady armchair by Marco Zanuso, a point of departure for the creation of the modern armchair
Presented at the 9th Triennale of Milan in 1951 – where it won the Medaglia d’oro - the Lady armchair is an icon of modernity, the product of an important technical and material innovation which, turning the traditional way of creating armchairs on its head, involved the separate manufacture of the parts and their subsequent assembly.
Observing the graphical representation adopted by Zanuso we can understand the design process emblematic of his approach to industrial design. Indeed, the architect uses a design method deriving from the car industry, sketching out the various parts in order to see how they are all inter-related. The materials were also taken from the same sector, foam rubber and springs with nastrocord together marked the introduction of the first modern armchair.
This technical and methodological innovation spawned and gave formal consistency to different construction elements: seat, backrest and sides with different levels of padding depending on the support requirements dictated by the pressure exerted by the body.
Today, the aesthetics of the Lady armchair have been further updated with the new selection of Raf Simons fabrics introduced in the Everest collection by Cassina.
There is also an iconic version, one of the first produced, with black and white checked upholstery and feet painted in matt basalt, which highlights the stylistic, formal and cultural continuity of Zanuso’s works.
Lady armchair by Marco Zanuso, Cassina I Maestri Collection.
upholstery: leather or fabric
frame: foam-covered iron
armrest: wood core with padding in polyurethane foam
base finish: painted matt basalt, black chrome, polished brass.
The Antropus armchair by Marco Zanuso, experimentation takes the spotlight
In 1948 The Skin of Our Teeth by Thornton Wilder was one of the first comedies performed at the Piccolo Teatro in Milan. Zanuso – who also designed the interior of the theatre with E. N. Rogers in 1952 and, years later, the new site - was commissioned to design the scenery and furnishings for this play. These included an armchair for which he used new materials with which he had been experimenting and that he named the Antropus. This completely upholstered armchair is distinguished by its depth, which makes a large and comfortable seat, contained by lateral panels with a sleek and sinuous profile.
This armchair is also available in an iconic edition upholstered in pink fabric to underline the originality of the design.
Antropus armchair by Marco Zanuso, Cassina I Maestri Collection
upholstery: leather or fabric
frame: foam-covered iron with polyurethane foam padding.
The formal rigour of the Woodline armchair by Marco Zanuso
Zanuso’s research into support structures onto which to anchor the load-bearing element of the seat dates back to the project for an armchair presented at the international design competition at MoMA in New York in 1949.
In 1964, in a more advanced technological context, Zanuso continued to study load-bearing structures with the Woodline, a wood version developed from a matrix based on the geometry of the circle, which gives the entire structure exemplary formal rigour.
The iconic edition of the Woodline has a walnut-stained walnut structure with a beige leather panel and tobacco coloured leather cushions.
Woodline armchair by Marco Zanuso, Cassina I Maestri Collection
structure: walnut-stained walnut or black ash curved plywood
frame: panel upholstered in leather, available in all colours of the Cassina leather collection
upholstery: removable cushion attached with snap buttons: leather or fabric.